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Neuroscience and Psychiatry
May 19, 2021

Neuromelanin-Sensitive Magnetic Resonance Imaging as a Proxy Marker for Catecholamine Function in Psychiatry

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York, New York
  • 2Division of Translational Imaging, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York
  • 3University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research, The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Center, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
JAMA Psychiatry. 2021;78(7):788-789. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.0927

The catecholamine neuromodulators dopamine and norepinephrine play key roles in cognition and psychiatric pathophysiology. Much of the evidence for this comes from human studies using positron emission tomography (PET), which allows direct, in vivo measurement of aspects of catecholamine function, such as synthesis or transmission. However, the invasiveness and high degree of specialization associated with PET limit its applicability for clinical use and research, especially in pediatric populations and repeated, longitudinal assessments of illness course and treatment response. This underscores the need for biomarkers that, like PET-based measures, reflect neurobiological processes relevant to illnesses and treatments but are more scalable and easily acquired.

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